The hypertension cascade of care in the midst of conflict: the case of the Gaza Strip

Bassam A. Abu Hamad
Zeina Jamaluddine
Gloria Safadi
Marie-Elizabeth Ragi
Raeda El Sayed Ahmad
Eszter P. Vamos
Sanjay Basu
John S. Yudkin
Mohammed Jawad
Christopher Millett
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Although hypertension constitutes a substantial burden in conflict-affected areas, little is known about its prevalence, control, and management in Gaza. This study aims to estimate the prevalence and correlates of hypertension, its diagnosis and control among adults in Gaza. We conducted a representative, cross-sectional, anonymous, household survey of 4576 persons older than 40 years in Gaza in mid-2020. Data were collected through face-to-face interviews, anthropometric, and blood pressure measurements. Hypertension was defined in anyone with an average systolic blood pressure ≥140 mmHg or average diastolic blood pressure ≥90 mmHg from two consecutive readings or a hypertension diagnosis. The mean age of participants was 56.9 ± 10.5 years, 54.0% were female and 68.5% were Palestinian refugees. The prevalence of hypertension was 56.5%, of whom 71.5% had been diagnosed. Hypertension was significantly higher among older participants, refugees, ex-smokers, those who were overweight or obese, and had other co-morbidities including mental illnesses. Two-thirds (68.3%) of those with hypertension were on treatment with one in three (35.6%) having their hypertension controlled. Having controlled hypertension was significantly higher in females, those receiving all medications for high blood pressure and those who never or rarely added salt to food. Investing in comprehensive but cost-effective initiatives that strengthen the prevention, early detection and timely treatment of hypertension in conflict settings is critical. It is essential to better understand the underlying barriers behind the lack of control and develop multi-sectoral programs to address these barriers.